The American Il Duce has had his portrait revealed at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. As expected it perpetuates the fiction of the Bush II administration was a relaxed and homey administration. It is a well-painted portrait but steeped in sentimentality, though it isn’t out of character from the other Portrait Gallery images which are equally saccharine and dull…for instance, here’s Bill Clinton (though Chuck Close also did a smaller version) and Ronald Reagan’s and George Bush I’s were no better.
Historically though some Presidents were more in synch with the art of their times like JFK who was painted by Elaine de Kooning (though that was Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy’s doing, she was an art history major after all) and Grover Cleveland was painted by the highly talented Anders Zorn.
Here’s the info on the Bush II artist:
Robert Anderson was selected by the White House to paint the president’s portrait. Anderson was a classmate of Bush’s at Yale University and received his training in fine arts at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A professional portraitist based in Darien, Conn., Anderson has also painted a portrait of Bush for the Yale Club in New York. Bush’s portrait will be installed in the exhibition “America’s Presidents,” among those of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and George H.W. Bush.
And here’s info on the Laura Bush artist:
Aleksander Titovets was selected by the White House to paint Laura Bush’s portrait. Titovets is a native Russian painter who now lives in El Paso, Texas. Trained at the St. Petersburg State University College of Fine Arts, he specializes in figurative and landscape painting inspired by his native Russia as well as the landscape of the Southwest.
More info on Titovets here and here. It looks like he was once represented by this gallery (a page is cached on Google with his name but it is unavailable now) and currently represented by this gallery in Charleston, South Carolina.
There are also a number of quotes by him here, including:
Relationships are everything in a painting. To paint well, you must look to your subject and even more to your painting and make comparisons. Compare the values, the sizes of the shapes and so on – these relationships will guide you to the answers to all of your questions.
Sadly I wasn’t able to dig up much on Anderson, his name is too common for Google…but there is some more info here (regarding his Bush II portrait at New York’s Yale Club) and here (from the Stamford Advocate). Here’s a little history about Anderson:
Anderson didn’t start out as a portrait artist. An American studies major at Yale, he said he always loved to draw but didn’t consider art school until after he returned from Vietnam in 1972.
…[Anderson] now spends most of his time painting privately commissioned portraits, including governors and U.S. senators, that cost $5,000 to $30,000.For the new painting, Bush asked Anderson to create a more informal look for his likeness at the National Portrait Gallery. Anderson painted the portrait to engage viewers with the president in a “personal and conversational manner,” according to an event program.
Bush was exactly a “conversational” president (unless you count all his conversations with Cheney), so looks like he may be rather concerned with how his legacy may be viewed.
Here’s the press release from the Nat’l Portrait Gallery.
I find it more peculiar that while the image of George is somewhat human, the portrait of Laura Bush is stiff and looks like something from another era.